August 10, 2010
Michael Vaughn is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates and represents Prince George's County 24th district, an area which includes FedEx Field, the home of the Washington Redskins. Despite living deep in the heart of Redskins country, Vaughn boasted on his website that he played for the Dallas Cowboys for three years.
A recent investigation by Dave McKenna of the Washington City Paper uncovered the fact that Vaughn never set foot on any field wearing that famous Cowboys star. Through a spokeswoman, the Cowboys said there is no record of Vaughn ever playing for them or any other NFL team.
Since McKenna's report went out last week, Vaughn has gone step-by-step through the political crisis playbook. His first step was to deny, deny, deny. The delegate insisted to McKenna that he was signed as a free agent in 1980, despite evidence to the contrary. A single, ambiguous newspaper clipping was his only proof.
Next up was the tried and true method of distraction with inconsequential facts. Vaughn said he was a member of the NFL Players Alumni Association, a group whose eligibility requirements seem to be only that you have a working credit card. If you'd like, you can join too for $150.
Then Vaughn tried to blame the issue on someone else (the webmaster who made his site), pulled the offending sentence (he says he removed it immediately; McKenna claims he waited six days), released a damage control statement blasting the City Paper's report (it was "unresearched (sic) and inaccurate"), basically blamed the media for all of society's ills ("this incident demonstrates the growing problem that we have in the 24/7 media culture") and, finally, vowed to "explore" how the error was made in the first place.
But if the report was "unresearched and inaccurate," then what's he exploring? And why did he take the sentence about playing for the Cowboys off his bio? Either McKenna is right and Vaughn didn't play for them or the bio was right and Vaughn did. Later on Vaughn admitted he didn't play for three years but that he practiced with the team for five months, yet he's still exploring something. The delegate doth protest too much methinks.
There hasn't been any political fallout yet in Vaughn's district, possibly because the story hasn't gained enough traction with major media outlets or possibly because voters are satisfied with the delegate's performance and don't care about a white lie on a website. That's what makes Vaughn's reaction so bizarre; if he had removed the Cowboys blurb and moved on, nobody would be talking about it. By extending the story, he's running the risk of having more of his constituents hear about his penchant for tall tales.
[Photos: See the Cowboys in pre-season action]
We've gotten away from the most important question though, which is why someone would lie about playing for the Cowboys, especially in the D.C. area? That's like running for mayor of Berkeley and saying you once worked for Sarah Palin. Or wearing a Michigan sweatshirt to a job interview in Columbus. Or putting an easily disputed fact on your website and getting into a fight with the media four months before an election. In other words, not too smart.
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